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Wilson-Raybould waited more than 2 hours for permission to attend Tuesday’s cabinet meeting: sources

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Jody Wilson-Raybould spent more than two hours waiting outside the cabinet room on Tuesday while her former colleagues hotly debated her request to address them about the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Multiple sources tell CBC News that some cabinet ministers were concerned about the optics of her unprecedented request to attend a meeting of the inner circle just a week after she’d quit cabinet.

Wilson-Raybould has been at the centre of a burgeoning scandal over allegations that she felt pressured last fall by unnamed people inside the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

The allegations, first reported by the Globe and Mail two weeks ago, have rocked the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and led Monday to the resignation of the prime minister’s long-time friend and senior adviser, Gerald Butts — who continued to deny the claim that he or anyone else in his office pressured Wilson-Raybould over SNC-Lavalin.

One of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers Ralph Goodale discusses his former colleague’s surprise appearance today. Plus: Eric Grenier on the controversy’s impact on the polls, and a pro-pipeline convoy arrives in Ottawa. 1:42:51

“But the fact is that this accusation exists,” Butts wrote in his resignation letter. “My reputation is my responsibility and that is for me to defend.”

The sources tell CBC that Wilson-Raybould contacted the prime minister the next morning, just before the cabinet meeting, asking to attend.

The prime minister took her request to cabinet, sparking a vigorous debate.

The sources say Labour Minister Patty Hajdu was among those arguing for giving Wilson-Raybould permission to speak to cabinet. The prime minister finally agreed.

What Wilson-Raybould told them during the hour or so she attended cabinet isn’t clear — but sources say she was unapologetic.

It’s the latest twist in a two-week long drama that’s put Trudeau and his government on the defensive. He’s been subjected to an almost daily barrage of questions about what he knew and when, why Wilson-Raybould had resigned and whether he had pressured her personally in any way.

Trudeau’s answers so far have done nothing to quell the controversy. He first declared the allegation was false but conceded a day later that there had been discussions in the fall with Wilson-Raybould about SNC-Lavalin’s efforts to obtain a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) — which would allow the Montreal firm to pay a fine but avoid a criminal trial.

A week into the affair, the prime minister revealed that he had met with Wilson-Raybould on Sept 17 — almost two weeks after federal prosecutors told SNC-Lavalin it would not be invited to negotiate a DPA — and that she asked him if he was going to direct her to make a specific decision in the case.

In a major shakeup to the highest ranks of the Prime Minister’s Office, Gerald Butts resigned as Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary. Along with Katie Telford, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, the trio formed the centre of decision making of this government. So who is Trudeau’s right hand man? 2:24

“There were many discussions going on, which is why Jody Wilson-Raybould asked me if I was directing her or going to direct her to take a particular decision,” Trudeau said last Friday. “And I of course said no, that it was her decision to make and I expected her to make it.”

Wilson-Raybould has declined repeatedly to speak publicly about the case, arguing she is still bound by solicitor-client privilege due to her former role as attorney general. She’s hired former supreme court justice Thomas Cromwell to advise her on what she can say.

Trudeau also has asked David Lametti, Wilson-Raybould’s successor as attorney general, for an opinion on whether he can waive the privilege without jeopardizing the ongoing court case.

Wilson-Raybould insists she remains a Liberal MP and on Wednesday attended the first weekly caucus meeting since the story broke.

She also has said she will appear as a witness before the Commons justice committee, which is looking into the allegations, but cautioned she will continue to cite solicitor-client privilege in answering questions.

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Students call on University of Ottawa to implement pass/fail grading amid pandemic

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OTTAWA — The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) is calling on the university to introduce optional, one-course-only pass/fail grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 semesters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students’ union said nearly 5,000 uOttawa students have signed its petition supporting the grading system.

In a letter to the university, the UOSU said it is asking the school to make changes to the grading structure, including allowing one course per semester to be converted to the “pass” or “satisfactory” designation.

The UOSU also made recommendations regarding a reduction of workload and course delivery.

“The adaptation to online learning during the pandemic for students has created unique challenges and disruptions that could not have been anticipated,” wrote Tim Gulliver, the UOSU’s Advocacy Commissioner. 

“The use of flexible compassionate grading options has been introduced in other universities, such as Carleton University which includes a use of Pass/Fail which we feel could be implemented at the University of Ottawa.”

Carleton University approved the use of flexible and compassionate grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 terms in early November.

The UOSU also called for all grades that constitute a fail to appear as “Not Satisfactory” on their transcript, which would not be included in grade point average calculations. 

The union represents more than 38,000 undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa.

In a response to CTV News, the University of Ottawa said it is aware of the petition.

“Last spring a decision was made by the (University) Senate to allow the Satisfactory/Non Satisfactory mark to be used, given the unique circumstances of the pandemic, which hit us close to the end of the Winter 2020 semester. The University is aware of the petition and is looking into the matter.”

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OPP warn of phone scams in Ottawa Valley

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Upper Ottawa Valley OPP warn residents of a phone scam that’s been making its way through the region recently. 

Police say a scammer pretends to be from a local business and tells the person their credit card didn’t work on a recent purchase before asking the person on the phone to confirm their credit card number. 

The victim may not have even used the card at the store, but police said the scammer creates a sense of urgency. 

Police remind residents to verify the legitimacy of any caller before providing any personal information over the phone. 

Similar scams have been reported recently in the region, according to police, with scammers posing as police officers, Revenue Canada or other government agencies demanding payment for a variety of reasons. A Social Insurance Number scam has also been reported recently, where a victim is asked for their SIN number under threat of being arrested. 
 
If a scam artist contacts you or if you have been defrauded, you’re asked to contact police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit their website at www.antifraudcentre.ca.

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The human history of Ottawa Valley is thousands of years old. Archeologists may have found a piece of it on Parliament Hill

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OTTAWA—Archeologists working on Parliament Hill have discovered a relic of Indigenous life that one Algonquin leader sees as a symbol of his people’s long history in what is now the heart of Canadian political power.

The jagged stone point was unearthed last year on the east side of Centre Block, but its discovery was not publicized as officials worked with Algonquin communities to authenticate the object, the Star has learned.

Stephen Jarrett, the lead archeologist for the ongoing renovation of Parliament’s Centre Block, said this week that while such an object is “not an uncommon find,” the stone point joins just a small handful of Indigenous artifacts ever discovered on Parliament Hill.

“It’s about the size of my palm, and it could be used as a knife or a projectile,” Jarrett said this week in response to inquiries from the Star.

He said the point is made of chert, a type of sedimentary stone most often used for implements of this type. And while the point was unearthed in what Jarrett calls “disturbed soil” — earth that has been dug up and moved, most likely during construction of Parliament — the soil it was in “is natural to the site.”

That means “it came from a source nearby, but finding exactly where it came from is impossible,” Jarrett said.

For Douglas Odjick, a band council member responsible for education and culture with the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, this artifact of “an original world” is a testament to the longevity of his Algonquin nation in an area they still claim as unceded and unsurrendered territory. Based on the assessment of Ian Badgley, the top archeologist with the National Capital Commission, Odjick said the stone point is likely 4,000 years old and dates to a time when the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau and Rideau Rivers — along with all their tributaries that stretch out into the surrounding area — served as a great hub of regional trade activity.

“It symbolizes who we are and how long we’ve been here,” Odjick said, comparing the area to an ancient version of a busy hub like New York’s busy Grand Central Station.

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